The UK’s Benchmark Seats – Part 3

The UK’s Benchmark Seats – Part 3


    A guest article by Harry Hayfield

A “well hung” Parliament: Hammersmith : Con gain from Lab (Swing: 4.22% to Conservative)

Now, I am sorry to disappoint all the lady readers here, but that’s not what you think it is. A well hung Parliament is a parliament where both the main parties have roughly the same number of seats and based on the boundary changes for this election, that would happen if the Conservatives gained 78 seats and Labour lost 70 seats. Although Hammersmith has been around since 1950, it’s had such a number of changes it’s almost impossible to keep track of them all! The core of the constituency was in Hammersmith North in 1950 and as you might expect it returned a Labour MP with a majority of 3,000, but despite the trend of the nation towards the Conservatives, this seat blew a raspberry at Churchill, Eden and Macmillan as the Labour majority increased.

And yet conversely after 1966, it trended towards the Conservatives, so much so that in 1983 Clive Soley was in danger of being knocked out as the MP as his majority fell to just 1,900 only to recover slightly to 2,415 in 1987. By 1992, things were heading back to normal, that is until the Boundary Commissioners moved in. Hammersmith, it was decided, was too small a seat for it’s own merit and so they decided to merge it with Fulham (a classic Con / Lab marginal), so what did Mr. Soley do? He panicked and fled to the new Ealing, Acton constituency. He shouldn’t have done really mind as Iain Coleman (as opposed to Tony Coleman in the next door seat of Putney) was returned with a 4,000 majority, which in 2001 fell to 2,015 which might explain why in 2005 the Conservatives took the seat with a majority of 5,000.

Tallies for Hammersmith 1950 – 2007: Labour 1950 – 2005 (55 years) Conservatives 2005 – 2007 (2 years) Liberal Democrats None Long Term Trend: Labour win

Conservatives GAIN an overall majority of 2: Bolton West: Con gain from Lab (Swing: 5.98% to Conservative)

Yes, that’s right! The key seat for the next election is only that of the most famous Blair Babe of them all Ruth Kelly! But considering everything else that’s happened in the seat over the years, it’s nothing more than the norm. Take for example 1950. A nice safe Labour seat with a majority of 5,000 over Con with the Liberals running third, and then the remarkable happened. The Conservatives gave up. I kid you not. In the 1951 General Election the Conservatives refused to field a candidate and said to the Liberals “Here, you have a go!” and the Liberal’s reaction was “Why, thank you very much!” and gained the seat with a majority of 3,000. As you can imagine Labour was stunned by this development, but not half as stunned as they were when it happened again in 1955, and yet again in 1959.

Unfortunately for the Liberals, Conservative HQ had by now got wind of this and told Bolton West Conservatives to run a candidate in 1964, they did and Labour won the seat back with normality being restored (Lab majority over Con of 3,000, Liberals on 10,000) and by 1966, the Liberals were nowhere to be seen. So much so, that in 1970 they didn’t field a candidate allowing the Conservatives to win the seat and whilst they managed to hold in February 1974, Labour regained the seat in October 1974 and despite the Con swing in 1979 Labour held the seat. Boundary changes in 1983 meant that the Conservatives won the new Bolton West in 1983 and held onto until the Lab landslide of 1997 (when Ms. Kelly was elected) and she’s held the seat ever since.

Tallies for Bolton West 1950 – 2007: Conservatives 1970 – October 1974, 1983 – 1997 (18 years) Labour 1950 – 1951, 1964 – 1970, October 1974 – 1983, 1997 – 2007 (26 years) Liberal Democrats 1951 – 1964 (13 years) Long Term Trend: Labour win (Con and Lib Dem battling for second)

Harry Hayfield is a Lib Dem from Ceredigion

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